Review Summary: If all you care about are lung-busting raps, controversial and funny lyrics and classic boom bap beats, check out this hip hop veteran's finest work.
I want you to think of a short list of rappers whom you consider the truest to the genre. Classic turntables, analog microphones, cassette tapes, b-boys, b-girls, graffiti, boom boxes and kids rap battling on the street corner. THAT genre. R.A. the Rugged Man belongs on that list, but his biggest problem right now is that no one knows who he is (despite his verses being featured alongside successful underground rappers like Vinnie Paz and Talib Kweli). He’s been in the game since ‘88 and while he only has 3 albums, he has one of the most consistent and impressive catalog of raps that I can think of.
Why isn’t he popular? Probably because he upset the wrong people in Jive records early on in his career. Probably because he’s one of the wildest performers in hip-hop (pulling some borderline GG Allin nonsense at some point). Probably because he is white and ugly. Probably because he enjoyed rapping about disgusting topics before it was cool. Probably because he has never really evolved as a rapper over the past 20 years. Even with all that said, he is still sharper and more lyrical than most underground rappers and undoubtedly a better rhymer than anyone in the mainstream.
Even though it’s his most recent album, this is the best place to start for those want to know what this crusty white grizzly is capable of. Lyrically, he can churn out enough wordplay in his lyrical machine gun to make anyone stop in his/her tracks. The beats are old school and charming. They can get repetitive, though. Subject matter ranges from patented R.A. gross-out humor (“Shoot me in the Head”) to politics (“Learn Truth”) to tender familial relationships (“Daddy’s Halo”). There’s enough variation here for people to understand that he is not a one-trick pony and that he is a thoughtful songwriter. And did I mention his flow was insane? Proof: "Definition of a Rap Flow."
Bottom line, if you are a 80’s/90’s hip hop head and you want something to entertain you for a little while, this album is for you. Fast and clever lyricism is valued over innovation. R.A. doesn't do anything he has not done before, he's just STILL great at it. Few of the tracks are skippable and Rugged Man's rhymes still cause rappers more stress than AIDS tests. Good enough for me.